Tigers can't overcome first-inning troubles

Tigers can't overcome first-inning troubles

NEW YORK -- Nearly everything during the play worked to perfection. Left fielder Justin Upton's cutoff throw to Jose Iglesias was on the money. Iglesias' heave to home nailed Brian McCann to prevent the Yankees from extending their lead to four.

But before any of that, Upton tracked Didi Gregorius' first-inning fly ball, lifted his glove and missed. Two runs came around to score, giving the Yankees the three-run cushion that'd propel them to a 4-0 win over the Tigers on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

"I love when you guys hold these guys to a standard like they're not human," manager Brad Ausmus said of Upton. "I will not blame one player for a game. Trying to blame Justin Upton for a game, that won't happen."

The first inning was full of follies for Detroit -- right-hander Mike Pelfrey allowed four baserunners before Gregorius even stepped up to the plate, and the righty walked in the first run of the game. The Tigers were never able to recover, falling victim to New York left-hander C.C. Sabathia, who allowed five hits over seven scoreless innings.

"I didn't start off the way I wanted with three runs in the first," Pelfrey said. "It ended up being the ballgame."

Pelfrey has had trouble navigating the first inning this season, with opponents batting .420 against him entering Friday. Three of the 10 homers he's allowed have come in the frame, too.

Pelfrey gets out of trouble

So it came as little surprise when Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran smacked consecutive singles in the first. And after Alex Rodriguez worked an eight-pitch walk, McCann walked on four pitches -- all sinkers -- and Gardner trotted home for the first run of the game.

"Pretty embarrassing to do that," Pelfrey said.

While Pelfrey admitted his command was off in the first, he said he felt better as the game wore on and his fastball had a lot of movement. The results improved, too, as the only other run the Yankees scored was unearned and came after catcher James McCann's wild pickoff attempt of Gardner at first put Gardner at third. Gardner then scored on a single from Beltran.

Nevertheless, the Tigers' uneven first inning loomed large while Sabathia spun a gem on the other side. The left-hander allowed just one runner to reach third base and surrendered zero extra-base hits.

"You can't really just count CC out," said Upton, who went 0-for-3. "He's been a good pitcher for a really long time. … He pitched really well."

Joshua Needelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.